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'Consumer-friendly' reporting on antioxidents misleading

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The following post is from our guest blogger, who prefers to remain anonymous to protect his professional affiliation: It turns out that someone finally looked and found that not only are antioxidents not helpful, but some may be harmful. This really underscores the problems of trusting partial science and also speaks to problems with how sloppy reporting by medical journalists can lead to widespread public mis-information.

Taking a look at what happened is instructive: Studies show that people who have diets high in veggies, especially green veggies, tend to have less of certain diseases. Scientists take guesses as to what it means: '"Well, veggies, especially green ones, are high in antioxidents. That might be it'." Off and running go the media, forgetting the the actual findings and publishing something that's "consumer friendly" -- code for either the journalist didn't understand, or he/she assumes that the public doesn't understand or want complexity. We see where that led: Millions of people taking supplements and vitamins that may harm them.

It's interesting that the fat-soluble vitamins are the ones that may be harmful and that the easily excreted, water-soluble ones have no effect. This seems plausible, and a good rule for consumers to follow, but it really wasn't the question tested.

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